Carson Hooper smiles next to a new set of “Magic: the Gathering” cards while playing the game with friends. His parents hope that by donating his cards they can help Weekend Anime with its building project and also raise awareness about Sudden Death in Epilepsy. Contributed / Weekend Anime

A Falmouth family has donated their late son’s card collection to a Westbrook game shop to help fund the store’s planned community gaming space.

Carson Hooper, who died in 2017 at age 25, was a regular at Weekend Anime on Main Street. His parents said they want to give back to a community that was so important to him. They also hope to bring awareness to Sudden Unexpected Death in Epilepsy, or  SUDEP, which took their son’s life.

Weekly card tournaments at Weekend Anime occurred for almost 18 years but took a hit during the pandemic, which ended the usual gatherings of 30 or more. Owners Julie and Ryan York shifted their focus to online sales. Much of their shop’s gaming space is now storage.

The Yorks want to reassemble their gamer community and are building a two-story event space on their site.

To help fund their expansion, the couple plans an eBay auction next month. Among the items up for bid will be Hooper’s “Magic: The Gathering” collection of hundreds of game cards.

Hooper hung out at Weekend Anime every Friday since 2003. There, he found acceptance and friendship, his parents said. He had epilepsy, something that often scared off his other peers and got in the way of his relationships.

“He had to be driven places, couldn’t drive because of the seizures, and that causes some kids to not want to hang out with you,”  said his mother, Kathie Hooper.

The gamers all shared the same passion as Carson, father Kevin Hooper said, and were serious about tournaments. Carson would spend every penny he earned on special cards or new releases.

It was like how fanatical sports people are about their teams,” he said. 

They tend to band together, he said of his son and his fellow gamers. He recalled one night during a sleepover, gamer friends successfully took care of Carson when he had a seizure.

“No matter what, they’d help each other,” he said.

Gamer Mick Pratt, who said she spent her formative years in the shop, said Weekend Anime provides a safe community. She misses the big events there.

I think the community is special,” Pratt said. “It’s really sweet that at any given time, there are three to four queer people. Trans folks play regularly. It’s a very safe space.”

The shop and the events are important to customers, many of whom are “socially awkward and struggle with interacting,” Julie York said.

Finding a connection “with people who accept who you are”  builds resilience, said Greg Marley of the National Alliance of Mental Illness Maine.

“Everyone looks for a place that they call home,” Marley said. “A place where they are known, recognized and strongly accepted. All three of those pieces are important.”

Weekend Anime’s community events are now capped at 16 players, but the expansion will allow the larger games to resume.

It’s unclear what Carson Hooper’s collection is worth. In general, some cards are only worth a few cents, others may be priced at hundreds of dollars.

Kathie Hooper also hopes the sale brings attention to SUDEP.

One seizure that stops your heart or brain can kill you, and we’re just really interested in making people aware,” she said.

Auction dates will be set after a Jan. 22 fundraiser tournament at the shop. For more information visit weekendanime.com.

Carson Hooper poses with a set of models and action figures at Weekend Anime. Hooper, who died in 2017, was a regular at the shop, his parents said. Contributed / Weekend Anime

Comments are not available on this story.